When rioting over economic conditions broke out in late 1970, Gierek replaced Władysław Gomułka as party first secretary. Gierek promised economic reform and, with the aid of foreign loans, instituted a program to modernize industry and increase the availability of consumer goods. The economy, however, began to falter during the 1973 oil crisis, and by 1976 price increases became necessary. New riots broke out, and although they were forcibly suppressed, the increases were rescinded. High foreign debts, food shortages, and an outmoded industrial base compelled a new round of economic reforms in 1980. Once again, price increases set off protests across the country, and Gierek was forced to grant legal status to Solidarity and to concede the right to strike. Shortly thereafter, he was replaced as party leader by Stanisław Kania.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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